UPDATE: This park was damaged by a tsunami on March 11, 2011. As of April 2011, the park remains closed as officials assess the damage.
Ancient Hawaiian justice was rather harsh. If you broke most kapu (laws), you faced the death penalty. One way to avoid this was to make it to a Place of Refuge such as this one. You certainly feel the peace and security of this place as you look at the ki'i (wood carvings) and the magnificent views all around.
The fee to enter is $5. Free entry with National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80).
This was a really neat place to see. It is an old religeous site that is called the place of refuge because in the old days if you broke sacred laws the chiefs would sentenced you to death. The only way you could get out of being killed is to make it here without your pursuers catching you. If you made it then all would be fogiven and you would continue to live. So this is a place for forgiveness. I just liked seeing the old statues.
There is an outdoor museum here that you can check out. There is a fee which is $5.00 for a 7 day pass. When we went it was closed due to something but we snuck past the gates anyways. This was one of the main things that I wanted to see and I was not going home without seeing it.
The area with the carved statues is Hale o Keawe Heiau Meainging Temple. There is also the royal grounds and the great wall. When we got there the sun was about to go down so we just went strait to the temple to check out the old carved statues. There is also a pic nic area if you want to take a break and eat something.
If it is closed seriosley just sneak in. We only stayed long enough to take a few pics. This would be something to do earlier in the day. Take bug repellent. Their are many bugs here especially at night time when the mosquitos want to have a snack. If you do get bit do not itch, or it will bug you really bad.
In ancient Hawaiian times, breaking a taboo (kapu) was punishable by death. The only way out of this gruesome fate was to escape to a place of refuge, such as Puuhonua O Honaunau. This may seem childish to us, but it was deadly serious business to the ancient Hawaiians, who took the cleansing power of being atthe heiau (temple) very seriously. In fact, Kamehameha I had ordered one of his opposing generals killed during one of his earlier campaigns, but the man made it to a refuge temple and was spared. Eventually, when Kamehameh united the Hawaiian islands, he made that very same person one of his ministers.
Puuhonua O Honaunau Nat'l Historical Park is one of the most significant heiaus and places of refuge in the hawaiian Islands. It is carefully and minimally reconstructed so that you can imagine what it was like in its pre-contact days, without feeling the tackiness, say, of Tombstone, Arizona. You can truly imagine that this would be a great royal compound of the early Hawaiians. Don't miss it!
This was a place of refugee where ancient Hawaiians could escape to and live if they were banished from their own district or if they were sentenced to death and could make it here they would be safe and recieve sanctuary. However once they made it here they could never leave. On the sight are preserved temples and village walls along with recreated houses.
This is also a great place to see honu (sea turtles).
Trully an awesome experience!
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau is a special place and ranks up there with Volcano Park for me. In the days of old, there were a huge amount of laws that people were bound by. If you broke a rule, chances were the consequence would be an ugly death. The only way to avoid such a fate was to reach the sacred City of Refuge. There is a lot see here so count on 2-3 hours.
The City of Refuge was made anational park in 1961 and it is said to be the best example of a place of refuge in the islands. Reconstructed houses and temples can be seen. The beach where only the king could step foot and land his canoe. The foundation of the very large original temple is still there. The grounds are well tended. Lots of turtles (see photo). Wooden carvings of ancient totem-like statues abound. Best of all is the ancient dry stone wall - 1000' long, 10' high and 17' thick - all built without mortar! Some recreated ancient games, some petroglyphs, and the king's bench are all there to see and touch.
There is a fee of $5 per car to park, but noone was collecting the day we were there and no place to put the money as far as I could tell (I looked - really).
In front of Pu’uhonua O Honaunau stands carved-wood representations of ancient Hawaiian gods.
Pu'uhonua O Honaunau was only one of two temples to survive King Kamehameha II ordering the destruction of temples throughout the Islands in 1918.
Pu'uhonua O Honaunau (Place of Refuge) National Historical Park . Within the 180-acre park is the restored temple complex of Hale O Keawe Heiau, originally built in 1650, surrounded by carved wooden images of Hawaiian gods.
Puuhonua O Honaunau on the Big Island of Hawaii is the most famous and
best preserved of Hawaii's ancient places of refuge. Designated a national
historical park in 1961, this 182-acre site includes the puuhonua and a
complex of archeological sites, including temple platforms, royal fishponds,
sledding tracks and some coastal village sites. Join more than 375,000
visitors each year and immerse yourself in the rich history of the area and
discover intriguing facts about the early Hawaiians' way of life.
At the park, you'll encounter canoe builders constructing an outrigger
canoe the way it was built in ancient times. There are demonstrations of
traditional Hawaiian games, including spear throwing competitions. Examine a
massive L-shaped wall, built around 1550 from thousands of lava rocks, which
separated the chief's home from the puuhonua. Inside this 1,000-foot-long
wall are fine examples of temples and homes of old Hawaii.
Hikers can follow a trail that winds along the coast for about a mile
to the park boundary. The trail includes several archeological sites,
including heiau (temples) and sledding tracks.
Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is open daily.
Orientation talks are provided several times a day at the park's
amphitheater. On the last weekend of June, the park holds its annual
cultural festival with hula performances, Hawaiian games, and arts and
This National Historic Park is on the site of the traditional sanctuary where individual who broke "kapu" (or taboo) rules could find protection from the severe (often lethal) punishments that awaited those who displeased the gods.
The centerpiece of the park is its reconstructed "Heiau" (or temple) where priests performed purifying rituals for those who sought refuge here. The "Hale o Keawe Heiau" also served as the burial site for many tribal chiefs. It's importance as hallowed ground of the ancestors is another one of the reasons that this was regarded as a tremendously sacred site (and still is regarded as such by many traditional Hawaiians).
The historic site here is operated by the National Park Service, which also provides interpreters and an interesting introductory film. There is a small admittance fee that helps to pay for programming at the site.
Check out my Travelogue for more pictures of the Pu'uhonua Sanctuary.
Really well done National Park with ancient monuments, illustration of living quarters, lifestyle, beautiful location. In addition to the really nice museum and guided tour of the location, it was right on the water, and there were turtles in the bay. Also, after touring around the museum we went snorkeling across the bay from the Place of Refuge, and it was great snorkeling.
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